The 2009 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup had it all.
And the drama started weeks before the Cup was even run.
Firstly, Australian superstar Blacks A Fake was officially ruled out ending weeks of speculation on whether he would make his New Zealand debut in the country's biggest event.
Within hours of the Blacks A Fake decision, New Zealand pin-up pacer and nominal Cup favourite Auckland Reactor was also withdrawn owing to his inability to handle the stand start procedure.
Pre-post betting on the million dollar event was then turned upside down.
There was also lingering doubts hovering above recently crowned Barastoc Grand Circuit Champion and Inter Dominion victor Mr Feelgood, the former North American failed to win a lead-up event whilst in New Zealand for the first time in his career.
Defending Cup champion Changeover was again shrouded in controversy, ruled out in two key lead up races due to veterinary rulings which had trainer Geoff Small on the back foot.
The Cup needed a hero.
Star local Monkey King indicated this might be his year with solid form upon resuming from a winter break.
Ageing Australian warrior Karloo Mick then stepped up, downing many leading local chance in the Ashburton Flying Stakes in his New Zealand debut for his popular trainer Barry Lew.
Not long after the triumph of Karloo Mick, giant mare Kiwi Ingenuity clearly demonstrated why she is held in such high regard after dominating her rivals in a low-key race on the same program.
Further Australian raiders were confirmed with connections of Be Good Johnny, Smoken Up and Washakie all heading across the Tasman searching for the rich prize on offer.
Come race day, opinions and selections were divided.
Under warm sunshine, the crowd roared when the started sent the big field on it's way.
Karloo Mick made a great start, taking over from Pembrook Benny but soon afterwards, Smoken Up charged to the front for Lance Justice.
Smoken Up dictated the pace whilst the moves were being made and the pressure was extreme.
The lead time was 2.00 with the quarters covered in 30.3 and 29.6. Approaching the final bend, Smoken Up skipped clear with a third quarter posted in 29 seconds and Karloo Mick loomed as a big threat.
Smoken Up was brave fighting off the closers, Pembrook Benny challenged whilst Kiwi Ingenuity, Bettors Strike and Monkey King swept down the outside.
At the finish, Monkey King gained the upper hand holding off Bettors Strike by a neck with Smoken Up a length away third.
The last quarter was 27.9. The overall time was 3:57.3, a mile rate of 1:59.3.
The day belonged to Monkey King.
The victory was the fourth for the driver Ricky May whilst it was the first for trainer Brendan Hill and owner Robert Famularo.
"This is brilliant, he is a wonderful stayer" a jubilant May said.
"Im happy for both Benny and Robert but above all else, this horse deserved to win a great race like this" May added.
Monkey King is a 7yo gelding by Sands A Flyin.
This victory was his 29th from 63 starts whilst his earnings are now in excess of $1.69 million.
The Barastoc Grand Circuit continues this Friday at Addington with the running of the Gr.1 $250,000 Woodlands NZ Pacing FFA.